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Oakland A’s Focus on Group Sales Paying Dividends

The A’s have been in the news recently for their ticketing initiatives, but behind the scenes, their renewed focus on group sales has helped spur momentum.

Adam White

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For the past month, the Oakland A’s have been one of the hottest teams on the field. Off it, their group sales team might be just as scorching.

Led by Josh Feinberg, director of group sales for the club, the team has been able to pull off initiatives that range from a Greek Heritage Night to a multi-game educational series that featured a Science of Baseball Day and a Career Education Day.

Ashwin Puri, the A’s vice president of sales and strategy, noted that a shift in organizational strategy that led to more of a focus on group sales has proved to be fruitful.

“We saw a lot of value he (Feinberg) could provide the organization. So, we brought him back after two stints in the NBA and we hired a staff of dedicated group sales folks, which we never had before.”

The reason behind the move? Good business.

“We thought this was an opportunity to help us grow our business and help engage the community in ways that were creative and approachable,” said Puri when discussing the impact Feinberg and his team have made.

To make sure they were firing on all cylinders, Puri and the other A’s executives made sure that the group sales team felt empowered to come up with unique ideas within the categories of consumers most impacted by fans.

“The top six categories in sports for group sales, and these are really general, are corporations, nonprofit groups, school, religious groups, performance groups and youth sports,” Puri said. “We have empowered them to work with all the different departments internally to come up with various programs that would cater to different audiences with schools and education being one of them and a huge opportunity for us.”

Their most successful days surrounding schools and education was the two aforementioned days that featured science and careers. Across both days, the A’s saw more than 6,000 attendees and a whole lot of value according to Puri.

“The Science of Baseball Day was aimed towards a younger demographic. Together with Science of Sport, we held a demonstration to show how science is used in the game of baseball, and after that, there was a science fair at the ballpark before the game. It was a full day of activities. The career day was similar, but it was mostly geared toward an older demo of middle and high schoolers. There were a couple different speaker panels from the front office talking about their career path in sports and then there was a college fair following that before the game. So both were full days worth of activities and we thought provided a lot of value to each segment.”

While fun for the students, these initiatives serve as a conduit for the larger overall strategy for the A’s when it comes to bringing value to the community.

“Connecting with local schools is super important for us as group sales opportunity for two reasons,” Puri said. “One, group sales is a great way to fill up the stands, but also a big part of our community relations efforts are reaching out to youth in the area and connecting with them.”

Another aspect that Puri lauded was how collaborative the ticket sales team is with the marketing team and vice versa.

“It (the A’s record-breaking 56,000-plus attendance night) started with a really strong group sales effort. We coupled that with a really strong digital advertising campaign. It takes a lot of factors to kind of come together to make them have a weekend that successful. We have an awesome marketing team.”

“We collaborate in the form of determining what are the most important campaigns we want to run, what games and homestands we need support from them and they have a number of tactics that they employ to support that. I’m just thrilled with the level of collaboration support they give us on a daily basis.”

Just like on the field, success is a team effort.

Adam is the Founder and CEO of Front Office Sports. A University of Miami Alum, Adam has worked for opendorse, the Fiesta Bowl, and the University of Miami Athletic Department. He can be reached at adam@frntofficesport.com.

Ticket Sales

Social Spaces Rule the Day at Venues

Beyond just providing fans with another option in which to take in the event, these spaces have also created more sponsorship inventory.

Front Office Sports

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Photo via Richmond Raceway

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

Everywhere you look, a new social space is popping up at a venue. Beyond just providing fans with another option in which to take in the event, these spaces have also created more sponsorship inventory.

Opening Chaos Corner last year, Richmond Raceway saw great success in attracting fans with options such as cheaper concession prices.

Ahead of this year’s season, we caught up with Dennis Bickmeier, President of Richmond Raceway to see why the track has turned to social spaces, why options are important, and why Larry’s Hard Lemonade came aboard this year as a sponsor of Chaos Corner.

On building social spaces…

“When we started the design process, I wanted to do something similar to what we were beginning to see in other sports. Party decks were creating a social atmosphere and more of a gathering during sports events. We designed our party deck without fixed seating and levels deep enough for barstools and standing room space to congregate during the race. It was important that this area be in the middle of the action, so you can see and feel the race. From the infield to grandstands to the midway, we have areas that are essentially built around socializing.”



On offering different experiences…

“It is important to make sure we have a variety of offerings and strike the right balance between price point and experience. When you look across the spectrum of who is coming to our races, we have everything from first-time attendees or casual fans to long-time avid fans and season ticket holders with each group having different wants and expectations for their race-day experience. It is up to us to provide the menu and let them make the selection that is the best fit for the experience they want. Once they decide, then it is up to us to deliver.”

READ MORE: Richmond Raceway Takes Unique Approach to Fan Engagement With Seven-Day Trip

On creating new inventory…

“My view is it’s a two-way street. There are times, like with the Chaos Corner, when we knew it was something we wanted to do, and then worked to find a partner or brand that aligned with that experience to help us bring it to life. There are other times, and you see this a lot with promotions, whereby in our discussions with a sponsor, and understanding their objectives, that we hit on something that we can build together from scratch.”

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

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Ticket Sales

SeatGeek and Cargo Bring Tickets to the Backseat

Thanks to a new partnership, passengers who find themselves in Cargo-equipped vehicles will have the chance to get exclusive pricing on tickets.

Adam White

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Image via Cargo

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

Next time you hop into an Uber or another ridesharing service, you might have the opportunity to load up on snacks, drinks, and even tickets to the biggest sporting event in town.

Thanks to a new partnership between SeatGeek and Cargo, passengers who find themselves in Cargo-equipped vehicles will have the chance to get exclusive pricing on tickets for concerts, sporting events, shows and other live events in the area in which they are traveling.

We caught up with Jeff Cripe, Founder & CEO for Cargo and Lee Moulton, Director of Partnerships for SeatGeek, to see how the deal came together and what it means for both parties.

On being more than a ticketing platform…
Moulton: “At our core, SeatGeek is obsessed with leveraging technology to make the experience of discovering and attending live events seamless and enjoyable. Enabling ticket discovery and commerce in relevant contexts such as during an Uber ride is just another way we are applying technology to serve consumers. Consumers are demanding that the apps and platforms they use are dynamic and adaptable. Our partnership with Cargo is a great example of contextual commerce at its best.”

On integrating teams…
Moulton: “We are currently working with various teams and sponsors to create special in-car offers for consumers. This will include offering last minute deals on tickets, being able to get complimentary rides to games and much more. Stay tuned!”

From chips and crackers to tickets…
Cripe: “Riders’ default behavior in rideshare vehicles is to shop, browse the internet, listen to music, and play games. Cargo’s long term ambition is to support all of that digital behavior, and we are thrilled to kick off our digital product marketplace with SeatGeek, whose data shows that ticket-buyers match up with Cargo’s core demo and are often traveling, via rideshare, within active Cargo cities.”

On brand integrations and custom offerings…
Moulton: “The possibilities are endless. You can imagine that buying a RedBull in the Cargo app could unlock a promo code to get discounted tickets to your next event. You can also imagine a rewards program where buying a certain number of products from Cargo can be used to redeem a ticket.”

Cripe: “Our brand partners have already reached out to sponsor ticket giveaways to riders and drivers, append physical product samples to relevant ticket offerings, and more. Success for us is creating a compelling ecosystem inside of the vehicle that generates value for our four key constituents: drivers, riders, rideshare companies, and brands. Blending the physical and digital products we offer will be a big part of that.”

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

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Ticket Sales

How Teams Are Using Technology to Increase Ticket Sales

Companies like the Aspire Group and Semcasting provide teams with in-depth information, which has helped organizations increase ticket sales.

Bailey Knecht

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Beyond wins and losses, sports organizations have lofty goals, particularly when it comes to ticket sales. Teams are constantly working to build a loyal fan base and increase attendance, so to address this challenge, many have begun outsourcing to tech companies that help them expand their reach.

One of those teams is the Dallas Mavericks, who work with Semcasting, a data-as-a-service company that creates predictive models for potential customers.

“We are a compiler of databases,” explained Geetha Neelakantiah, vice president of business development and partnerships for Semcasting. “Some is public information we’re pulling in, some is survey information, some is a variety of governmental agencies that make the data public. What we do is we add our smarts because we have the tools to create inferences based on income and other data elements.”

Those inferences help develop a 360-degree view of the customers to analyze the best way to market to them.

Semcasting builds profiles by taking into consideration fans’ income, home values, interests and distance to the arena. The company also addresses Customer Trade Areas using Mobile Footprints, by mapping smartphone signals and identifying patterns and “hot spots” in the fan base.

SEE MORE: How Teams Can Use Social Video Franchises to Tell Unique Stories 

“Knowing who’s attending an event or game or retail location and finding them and identifying who they are, marketers are able to provide better programming to them so next time they come, it could be catered to those coming to the event so it’s more customized,” said Neelakantiah.

The Aspire Group is another organization that works with teams to optimize ticket sales and fan experience. According to Bill Fagan, chief operating officer for the Aspire Group, the main goal in ticket marketing is to retain fans.

“If we’re losing existing fans, ticket holders or donors or whoever, then we’re never going to grow,” Fagan said. “It’s very challenging to acquire new fans. Analytics indicate that if you’re not retaining at least 85 percent of your fans, you won’t get back to your previous year’s total.”

Finding and retaining fans is particularly important for teams that may be struggling to earn wins, Fagan said.

“Hope is not a strategy, and winning is not a strategy,” he said. “You can’t just hope that team is going to turn it around. You have to work twice as hard to retain people and make sure you don’t lose them. There’s nothing more important than taking care of the people that are attending.”

In order to preserve those existing fans, as well as identify potential new fans, the Aspire Group uses a variety of tactics, ranging from conducting surveys to utilizing data aggregation technologies.

That technology is what allows organizations to draw conclusions based on existing information.

“What marketers are attempting to find is lookalikes,” Fagan said. “They say, ‘Here’s what our average fan looks like in their demographic and behaviors. Let’s find other people that behave in similar ways.’”

“Knowing that information — how often a person purchased with their demographic — helps identify other individuals,” Neelakantiah added. “It does give us more information about how a sports team is able to develop different marketing programs and increase sales on different segments.”

LISTEN: Rob Perez’s Journey From Ticketing Entrepreneur to NBA Personality 

In order for the team to deliver customized advertising to specific audiences, organizations like Semcasting aim to access the “unknown fan” — someone who has attended a game or visited the team website, but isn’t a regular buyer — an ideal customer for the team to zero in on. Once data is used to nail down the demographics of the “unknown fans,” advertising can be specially targeted to fit their needs and hopefully turn them into regulars.

According to a testimonial from Veronica Cantu, director of sales marketing with the Mavericks, the partnership with Semcasting has been beneficial.

“Thanks to Semcasting, we now have a deeper understanding of our fan base and clearer solutions on how to customize and optimize our engagement with them,” she said. “When our fans buy single tickets, season tickets or simply visit our website, Semcasting has helped us discern who those unknown fans are and where they spend their time, both online and offline.”

With the help of Semcasting, the Mavericks saw a 380 percent return on investment, based on a $25.30 cost per acquisition.

Looking ahead, Semcasting hopes to tie it all together by identifying the most effective forms of marketing, using attribution to connect sales back to the relevant marketing channel.

In a broader sense, the next step for data analysis companies is making fan identification resources more universally affordable and available, particularly for smaller market organizations with less manpower, according to Fagan.

“The challenge for entertainment properties is getting the right ROI,” he said. “Unfortunately, the resources might not be available to invest in the technologies, so there is an increased demand for third party, technologically-based affordable solutions… That’s where we put our heads, which is servicing the entire world of live event ticketing and understanding that an empty seat is a cancer to the brand.”

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